Mon. May 27th, 2024

Just for laughs popular comedy show scammed

The second image shows a serious meeting in a corporate boardroom with Just for Laughs executives, including the CFO, discussing the discovery of the financial fraud. The executives are seated around a conference table, looking at documents and a laptop displaying bank statements, with a modern cityscape visible through the window, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.The second image shows a serious meeting in a corporate boardroom with Just for Laughs executives, including the CFO, discussing the discovery of the financial fraud. The executives are seated around a conference table, looking at documents and a laptop displaying bank statements, with a modern cityscape visible through the window, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

In January, Just for Laughs Management secured a court order to identify the owner of a TD Bank account to which misappropriated funds were transferred.

The fraud that affected the company involved impersonating the email of an executive, manager, or essential supplier.

In the Just for Laughs case, an unidentified suspect, referred to as “John Doe” in legal proceedings, forged the emails of employees from L’Équipe Spectra and Groupe CH, a practice known as “spoofing.” Both entities are part of the Molson family holdings, which also owns the comedic content production company.

As per internal agreements, Just for Laughs outsourced management services to Spectra and another Molson-owned company, evenko.

In February 2023, the financial controller at Just for Laughs received what seemed to be an email from a Spectra employee, directing a change in payment procedures to evenko. Consequently, payments were redirected to a new TD Bank account.

The first image depicts a financial controller from Just for Laughs, sitting at a cluttered office desk, examining an email on a computer screen. The office setting is dynamic and filled with other employees, capturing the initial moment of confusion and concern as the controller reads the fraudulent instructions.
The first image depicts a financial controller from Just for Laughs, sitting at a cluttered office desk, examining an email on a computer screen. The office setting is dynamic and filled with other employees, capturing the initial moment of confusion and concern as the controller reads the fraudulent instructions.

This email was also cc’d to two Groupe CH employees involved in managing these companies. However, the email originated from a scammer, not from Spectra. The scammer had crafted an email address mimicking that of a company employee responsible for accounts receivable, adding an extra ‘s’ to the domain name to appear as “@equipespectras.com” instead of “@equipespectra.”

The fraudulent email was similarly cc’d to two fictitious addresses posing as Groupe CH managers who oversee Spectra.

The subtle discrepancies in the email addresses fooled the controller at Just for Laughs, leading to three payments being made to the false account: $8,623 in February, $209 in March, and notably, $804,825 in April to cover management fees owed to evenko for 2022.

The fraud was uncovered in May 2023 when Groupe CH inquired about the overdue management fees. Shortly after, the controller confirmed that the payments were made to the supposed evenko account at TD Bank on April 13, as stated in Just for Laughs’ application for a Norwich order.

The CFO of Groupe CH then clarified that the account was not theirs.

At that moment, Just for Laughs realized it had fallen victim to a fraud initiated by the deceptive email back on February 23, 2023.

Subsequently, Just for Laughs requested their bank, National Bank, to trace the funds and filed a police report in Montreal, prompting an investigation.

Just for laughs management discussing financial fraud / scam
Just for laughs management discussing financial fraud / scam

The court granted the Norwich order to uncover the identity behind the TD account. However, La Presse could not access the file in time for further details.

The request also sought to freeze the account, though it is unclear if such an order was issued.

Initially, Just for Laughs’ internal lawyer, Paul Morissette, referred inquiries to Patrick Lapierre at the Blakes law firm, who stated he had no instructions to discuss the matter.

The company’s CEO, Alain Boucher, did not respond to calls.

This case of embezzlement is typical of fraud where criminals convince a key figure to transfer funds, explains Patrick Mathieu, founder of HackFest, a cybersecurity expert community. He notes that fraudsters often use phone calls and false emails to gather information about company operations and suggests that simple verification steps can prevent such fraud.

Unfortunately, this fraud occurred during a particularly challenging year for Just for Laughs, which then sought protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

In 2023, Just for Laughs Management reported a loss of $7.9 million, a significant downturn from the $1.1 million profit from the previous year.

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